• Share
  • Read Later

(4 of 11)

"Prosecutions are lengthy, expensive and often pointless."

In San Francisco, which just may be the porn capital of America, prosecutors have simply given up. Three years ago, local judges pressured the district attorney into dropping hundreds of obscenity cases in a single day because they were cluttering court calendars and impeding more important cases. Observers cannot recall a single obscenity conviction since 1971. Attorney Peter Keane, whose once flourishing business in obscenity defenses has now dried up, believes not even as foul a film as Animal Lover would nowadays be judged obscene by a San Francisco jury.

Atlanta police have been unable to padlock a single porn palace in years. Recently they raided a downtown theater, seized the film and arrested the projectionist, who before he was led away proceeded to give angry customers tickets to another showing scheduled for later that day. He was released on bond and back at work for the screening. His arrest was a study in double futility, for in Atlanta, as in other cities, the police find it impossible to penetrate the maze of legal fronts and find the identity of the true owners.

Boston's officially approved "combat zone" in the Washington Street area is designed to contain the spread of "adult" entertainment, but the city also has a conservative district attorney and an activist vice squad. In the past several months police raided every porn moviehouse and bookstore within the combat zone. In one shop they ripped out the minimovie machines, carting them off as evidence. "The cops want to show they're there," said Attorney Morris Goldings, Boston's leading obscenity lawyer, who acquired some 15 new clients in the crackdown. "Every guy knows that one day he is going to be hit." But once busted, few ever suffer conviction. So they thrive.

Currently, the Federal Government is bringing some 85 obscenity cases. They include a series of showcase trials in Memphis, in the heart of the anti-porn Bible Belt. Leading the fight is Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Parrish, 32, father of three and an elder in the First Evangelical Church. Last October Parrish won the conviction of a Memphis distributor and a Los Angeles producer of hard-core films. Since then, Parrish's score has been five obscenity convictions and two acquittals. Now he has the producers, distributors and local exhibitors of Deep Throat on trial, along with Harry Reems. Seven other cases are pending, including one involving the movie The Devil in Miss Jones and its horizontal heroine Georgina Spelvin. The Justice Department says it is carefully watching the trials in order to gauge community reaction.

So is the porn industry, a loose, sprawling congeries of businesses, roughly divisible into the old porn (peepshow films, sleazy photo magazines and porn paperbacks, mostly produced and distributed by organized crime) and the new porn (theater films, glossy men's and women's magazines and sex newspapers, most of which grew out of the youth culture of the '60s, and are still independent of organized crime). The industry's products are generally separated into what the trade and its public consider hardcore or soft-core porn. The distinction is not always easy to draw, but in hardcore, sex acts are explicitly shown.

The new porn entrepreneurs offer case

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11